Collaborative Reporting for Safer Structures UK (CROSS UK) has highlighted worrying incidents in care homes. Maintenance staff lacking competence have endangered residents, with specific concerns emerging about fire door maintenance and the role of fire risk assessors.

08 April 2024

CROSS UK, a pivotal platform facilitating collaborative reporting on fire and structural safety matters, has shed light on alarming lapses in fire safety competence within UK care homes. Recent reports underscore the critical need for enhanced vigilance and professionalism in maintaining fire safety standards within these vital facilities.

In a disconcerting revelation, an unnamed Fire and Rescue Service has expressed deep concern over the competency levels of maintenance personnel entrusted with safeguarding residents in care homes. This unease follows two distressing incidents where deficient electrical and fire door maintenance jeopardised the safety of vulnerable occupants.

The incidents in question exemplify a worrying trend where unqualified personnel are tasked with critical safety repairs, leading to potential hazards and compromising the wellbeing of residents. In one instance, firefighters responding to an emergency call discovered faulty electrical connections in a care home specialising in end-of-life care, directly attributable to inadequate maintenance by an unqualified individual.

Subsequent investigations revealed similar lapses in fire door maintenance, where incorrect installation of intumescent strips and cold smoke seals posed severe risks to residents' safety. The consequential compromise in fire safety infrastructure underscores the urgent need for stringent adherence to regulatory standards and heightened competence among maintenance personnel.

In the case of fire doors, the improper installation of intumescent strips and cold smoke seals was identified as a critical issue. These essential components, when fitted incorrectly, can compromise the integrity of fire doors, potentially allowing the passage of fire and smoke into escape routes during emergencies. This revelation highlights the imperative for meticulous attention to detail and expertise in maintaining fire safety infrastructure within care homes.

Experts stress the pivotal role of competent fire risk assessors in scrutinising installations and maintenance records to mitigate potential risks. Furthermore, they advocate for comprehensive training and accreditation standards to ensure the highest levels of competence across the care sector.

It has been suggested that addressing these concerns requires collaborative efforts between Fire and Rescue Services, care regulators, and care home management. A concerted campaign aimed at educating 'Responsible Persons' in care homes about their fire safety obligations and best practices is deemed essential to fostering a culture of safety and compliance.

Enforcement actions taken by Fire and Rescue Services must be transparent and effectively communicated to raise awareness and promote learning within the industry. Care regulators are identified as key conduits for disseminating crucial information and driving improvements in fire safety standards across care homes nationwide.

In conclusion, the incidents highlighted by CROSS UK serve as poignant reminders of the imperative to prioritise fire safety competence and vigilance in care home environments. Enhanced collaboration, training, and regulatory oversight are indispensable in safeguarding the lives and wellbeing of vulnerable residents.

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